I have a faint recollection of seeing the Korean thriller “Hide and Seek” several years back. The plot twist is familiar when it turns up again in actor-turned-director Joel David Moore’s remake.
But even with all that information, even re-watching the picture’s last third to see if I’d missed something, it’s hard to make sense of the remake’s finale. The pieces don’t fit as neatly as they did in Jung Huh’s original, and that spoils the effect.
It’s about a hotelier (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who just inherited dad’s tony Grand Parkmore Hotel in Manhattan. Noah lives in the penthouse with his wife (Jacinda Barrett) and two kids.
The over-organized refrigerator, fastidious grooming and a tendency to scrub his hands with a psychotic vigor make us wonder about Noah, and diagnose him as “OCD” on the spot.
The last thing a guy like that needs, with this new responsibility just added to his portfolio, is hearing from his “fixer” lawyer (Joe Pantoliano) that his estranged and apparently-disturbed brother has returned to the city, perhaps to make trouble over the will.
Noah follows directions to the condemned flophouse where brother “Jacob” was last seen. Mr. OCD Fastidious finds himself haggling with an informal slumlord (Mustafa Shakir), his phone snatched by an urchin whose mother (Sue Jean Kim) is convinced the missing Jacob was some sort of pervert, and then mugged by a homeless guy.
Before this mystery is unraveled, neat-freak Noah will be crawling through ruined crawl spaces, seeing this mysterious, helmeted menace everywhere and certain that its Jacob demanding his share.
“He wants what’s mine, what’s HIS!”
Rhys Meyers goes properly wild-eyed for this performance, playing a buttoned-down man who snaps and turns manic. The wife and kids, his employees? They don’t seem to notice the guy is off his rocker.
And as Noah’s nightmares about the sinister motorcycle-helmet turn real, other threats from that condemned building manifest themselves in more beatings and a deeper puzzle.
We saw the helmet kill a young renting “squatter” (Alejandra Rivera) in the first scene. We know the threat is real. But in a building littered with crazy, who can it be?
Writer-director Joel David Moore, an actor in the “Avatar” franchise, has no problem getting our attention with the mystery. But he squanders that attention with a story that doesn’t play fair or logically add up. A couple of interesting performances are similarly squandered.
This “Hide and Seek” isn’t hatefully bad. It’s short, well-acted and easy enough to follow until it isn’t. It’s the “until it isn’t” that earns it the label, “disappointing.”
Rating: R for some violence, disturbing images, nudity, and for language.
Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jacinda Barrett, Mustafa Shakir, Alejandra Rivera, Sue Jean Kim and Joe Pantoliano
Credits: Scripted and directed by Joel David Moore, based on the South Korean film of the same title by Jung Huh. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:24